How Do You Know If You Have Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?

March 12, 2018

While a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) has features which can be quickly diagnosed with an MRI or CT scan, Mild Traumatic Brain Injury can occur with just a jolt to the head, or collision with an object, and MRI and CAT scans are often normal. How do you know if you might have MTBI?

  • Confusion that comes and goes, disorientation, or impaired consciousness
  • Dysfunction of memory around the time of injury
  • Loss of consciousness lasting less than 30 minutes
  • Seizures
  • Infants and young children; irritability, lethargy, or vomiting following head injury
  • In children and older adults; headache, dizziness, irritability, fatigue or poor concentration

Loss of, or altered consciousness seems to be key to obtaining a diagnosis of MTBI though it does not definitively rule it out. Put simply, you can be cognitively impaired and not show physical signs of mild brain trauma.

If you feel like you are going to have prolonged cognitive and/or health issues due to MTBI we recommended you:

  • If indicated by a medical specialist; request a CT scan (or an MRI 48 to 72 hours after an injury). Include appropriate tests for brain trauma biomarkers. Note; CT and MRI scans will be helpful for traumatic brain issues, but can be inconclusive for MTBI. If you are denied such scans, document any refusals from your insurance company or the examining physician.
  • Get treated by a neurologist that specializes in mild traumatic brain injury.
  • Get a referral by your neurologist to a neuropsychologist who can determine if you have cognitive deficits or traumas that affect normal brain functioning.
  • Find people who know you personally and at work who can be interviewed to provide witness as to changes in your cognitive abilities, mood, energy levels, and memory.

If a physician does not issue CT or other imaging scans, that does not necessarily mean they don’t think you have MTBI, just that the scans would not be helpful to diagnose an issue.

Studies have shown that CT can find abnormalities in less than 10% of mild concussion TBI cases. PET, functional MRI, MR spectroscopy, and SPECT have been useful to identify the concentrations and locations of various molecules that impact the brain following a head injury [PubMed]. Brain injuries can initiate delayed injury processes such as cellular hypoxia and swelling, and less obvious maladies such as inflammatory cascades which release amino acids (such as glutamate and aspartate), and free radicals, that may lead to further tissue damage [PubMed]. Imaging tests combined with serum biomarkers are showing promise at identifying mild TBI by disclosing small hemorrhages, diffuse axonal injury, and specific proteins released after a trauma to the brain.

DISCLAIMER: The information herein is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For any legal matters, we urge you to take the advice of an attorney familiar with your case.